Software & UI6.7
The HTC U11 comes with Android 7.0 Nougat at its core, but HTC has its own skin running on top. HTC calls this HTC Sense UI and is designed to essentially work in conjunction with HTC Sense Companion and adapt to your lifestyle and smartphone usage pattern. There are a number of things that HTC got extremely right with the software bundled onto the U11, and then, there are some things that really just poke on that one exposed nerve.
Let’s start with what HTC got right. For those who like the App drawer, HTC has refrained from an iOS-like arrangement of apps. We liked that in the app drawer, you can choose to organize the apps either alphabetically or by the date when the app was downloaded/installed and even a custom order based on your preference. We particularly like the last bit because just like the home screen, we could organize the app drawer with our favourite apps on top and the remaining non-essential apps further down the page.
HTC’s Sense UI strikes a very delicate balance between what we expect of Stock Android and the right amount of custom skinning. For the most part, the HTC U11 has a easy to navigate user interface and looks the part of a flagship smartphone, but then there are a few elements that appear to be so dated, they stick out like a sore thumb. The stock dialer and contacts app looks like something out of Android Eclair or Froyo. These two elements really stick out of an otherwise fairly modern UI, although it is clear that HTC is yet to adopt the Material Design language for Sense UI.
One element of the software that we actually found rather useful was the squeeze feature. Sure, it’s a combination of hardware and software, but we’re going to look at it under software. The HTC U11 actually has a fairly limited amount of things you can do with this feature, but third party developers have created apps that will let you leverage the feature very well. We used it for taking screenshots and damn was it convenient. No more fumbling for the right combination of keys to take a screenshot. The stock options allow you do several things such as activate the camera (or take photos), open a browser, activate Google Assistant etc. by default, you cannot define a custom action, which is where the third party developers come in. It is nice of HTC to not lock developers out from using the pressure sensors in the frame, allowing the feature to really stretch its capabilities beyond the stock constraints.